This Glossary series contains some of the terminology associated with natural and artificial nails, procedures, and a few important product or additive definitions as I understand them. Many of these terms are confusing, difficult to pronounce and understand at first , especially the chemical and medical ones! I’m an interested Nail Technician and by no means a scientist or expert. This glossary is something I wished I’d had access to when I was just starting out.
Occasionally I will edit these posts to add or amend information, as and when I learn more or come across new terminology. The beauty of this industry is that it’s constantly evolving as new scientific discoveries and product developments become available.
I’d love to hear if you have any suggestions, additions or edits to this series. It’s definitely a work in progress and has taken over a year to get this far. I’m hoping this will become a useful up to date resource for all professional nail technicians and students.
Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) now known as SDS: Chemical information sheets also containing safety precautions on each potentially hazardous product one uses. It is usually a condition of your insurance that you have a copy of MSDS for all products containing potentially hazardous chemicals. SEE SDS
Matrix: The matrix is that part of the nail bed that extends beneath the nail root and contains nerves, lymph and blood vessels. The matrix produces the nail cells. As the nail grows its cells undergo a dehydrating and hardening process. The matrix will continue to generate new cells as long as it receives nutrition and remains in a healthy condition.
Mix Ratio: Relation in degree or number between two things. In liquid and powder enhancements the correct mix ratio is important in ensuring the longevity of the finished nail.
MMA (Methyl Methacrylate): MMA in its liquid form is no longer recommended for use in the nail industry due to the severity of allergic reaction and damage to the natural nail plate. It adheres so tightly to the nail plate that it can literally rip the nail plate from the nail bed due to heavy pressure from a blow or trauma to the nail. MMA is so hard that it cannot be safely removed from the nail plate by soaking in any form of remover — it must be filed from the nail plate with a heavy abrasive. Unfortunately it’s often still used in Non Standard Salons or NSS. SEE Non Standard Salons.
Mold: Any of various fungus growths formed on the surface of organic matter. Mold is not a human pathogen, however often the by product from pseudomonas bacteria is mistaken for mold. SEE pseudomonas or Greenies.
Monomer: Individual, reactive chemical units which may be linked together to form a polymer. The liquid in a liquid and powder coating is a monomer.
Nail Bed: the nail bed is the portion of skin upon which the nail plate rests. It contains blood vessels that supply nutrients to the fingertip.
Nail oil: nail or cuticle oils are a daily essential and as well as keeping the skin around the nail moisturised can also help to improve the quality of the Natural nail, and increase the longevity of the nail service.
Nail Plate: The hard keratin coating that protects the fingertip and underlying tissue.
Nail Root: The nail root is at the base of the nail and is embedded underneath the skin. It originates from an actively growing tissue known as the matrix.
Nailfie: like a selfie only a photo taken of your nails.
Non Standard Salon/ NSS: a term used to describe a salon or nail bar which doesn’t follow the recommended hygiene standards such as sanitising tools or changing towels between clients. They often also follow outdated and damaging practices such as etching the nail plate with efiles or using products with MMA in them. SEE Efile, MMA.
Oligomers: are short pre joined chains of monomers. These short single chains are actually several thousand monomers long.
Ombré: a nail art technique where two or more colours are blended where they meet to create a beautiful shaded design.
One Stroke: a nail art technique for creating a beautiful shaded designs using two colours on one brush. Often used to create flower and leaf designs but can be used effectively for more complex designs.
Onycholysis: is the medical term for when a nail separates or lifts from the skin underneath it. Onycholysis is not uncommon, and it has several possible causes, often caused by trauma or incorrectly applied enhancements. The condition lasts for several months, because once separated a fingernail or toenail won’t reattach to its nail bed. Once the nail nail grows the problem should grow out and the symptoms should resolve. Fingernails take 4 to 6 months to fully regrow, and toenails can take 8 to 12 months. In severe cases when the matrix is damaged the nail may not grow back completely or at all.
Opacity: the quality of lacking in translucence or transparency. The more opaque a polish or gel is the less see through it is. A high opacity can make a product look great in just one coat.
Overexposure: caused from prolonged, repeated exposure to an irritant which can result in an allergy to the irritant.
Overlay: the process of applying a thin coat of hard gel / builder gel to the natural nail to add strength.